Included Accessories: Stand Mount, Microphone Pouch
Manufacturer Part Number: AT2020
Reading the reviews on amazon truly left me disappointed. A good majority of the 1-star reviews that the AT2020 received were from people who had no idea what they were getting into prior to purchase. Guys, this isn’t a USB mic. It’s an XLR condenser mic that will only run off of 48v phantom power. Know what you are buying before you buy it!
There are so many good qualities about the 2020, that it’s hard, to sum up. It does really well with husky, deep male voices. It’s well built and durable and comes with a nice carrying pouch giving it an added portability. Really it’s built like a tank and can take a lot of abuse.
As for its sound, it’s extremely sensitive like the NT1A but boasts a flat, neutral response. Like the NT1A, it greatly benefits from some EQ’ing. Adding a bit of EQ and compression can really make this mic sound amazing. Know that above all, it is still an entry-level mic but proves to be extremely versatile. You can record just about anything with it, and do it well! More on that a little later.
Sound Test from Stu’s lab
with Pop-Filter under a blanket:
with Pop-Filter, under a blanket, farther away:
Bold and crisp sound. Better with darker sources more so than brighter ones.
Extremely Versatile & can handle a wide variety of studio, as well as general applications.
Very sensitive and picks up a lot.
Very well built and durable. Will last you a long time. Built like a tank.
Great for small home studios and beginning musicians.
Gives a nice flat response that can be EQ’d very easily.
The storage bag is a bit flimsy and doesn’t have any padding.
Doesn’t come with XLR cables or shock-mount.
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Who this mic benefits?
I’ve seen this thing used for nearly everything. It’s definitely garnered a reputation for being an all-around workhorse mic. It does well with:
twitch shooter commentary
It really is the true definition of a multi-purpose tool!
What you will need?
Before you buy this mic or any mic that is XLR, you will need the following:
48v Phantom power via audio interface, or some sort of mixer.
Here are a couple of options I can recommend:
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I have this one and recommend it highly. It’s extremely reliable and will work wonders with the AT2020. You can also upgrade your mic in the future and still use it. A great piece of equipment.
Behringer Xeynx 802 Mixer. If you’re just starting out, you may not want to spend over $100 on an interface. The 802 comes in handy because it has two XLR mic inputs, so you can record your vocals. It also gets really nice reviews on Amazon. Around $50.
XLR cables. This was a huge “complaint” from people that didn’t know what they were buying. You will need at least 1 XLR cable to plug from your mic into the front, back, or top of your interface or mixer.
Shock-mount. Optional but recommended. If the mic accidentally gets hit or something during recording, this will absorb that shock and won’t alter your vocals or record something you didn’t intend.
Pop-filter. Should be a standard purchase with most microphones. This will prevent those plosives from coming through. Plosives are just the S’s, P’s, and other consonants that sound harsh coming out of your mouth at loud volumes. The pop-filter quiets them down. It also prevents spit and other undesirables from entering the microphone and damaging the diaphragm inside. Think of it like a shield. I recommend the Samson PS01. I’ve had one since 2007 and it’s worked wonders ever since.
Mic Stand. You can either go with a boom stand, a scissor arm, or a desktop stand. I love the desktop stands convenience, as I don’t have to actually stand up and record (I’m lazy lol). Just make sure you go with what YOU need.
The AT2020 is a good starter investment because it comes from a reputable brand with a long line of great mics. It’s also a great workhorse mic that excels with many different applications. It’s well built and durable, and most of the complaints came from people who didn’t know USB from XLR. What is XLR? One negative I came across is that it may sound a tad bright, but not as much as the NT1A. Also, make sure you add a bit of EQ and compression before you write it off. The raw vocals may not amaze you.
Included Accessories: Shock Mount, Pop Filter, 20′ Mic Cable, Dust Cover
Manufacturer Part Number: NT1-A
This mic seems to get either glowing reviews, or people really complain about it. Some say it’s the warmest, most even sounding mic you can buy in this price range. Others claim that the high end is harsh, sibilant, and much too bright. What does sibilant mean? It can start to sound tinny and thin with big voices, coming out rather sterile.
Overall, it’s a very quiet mic, and the overwhelming majority of people say it’s extremely sensitive. I read a lot of folks regarding it so highly, that they would gladly put it up against mics way out of its price range, specifically a Neumann U87. One thing to know, don’t even think about recording with this mic using your standard computer speakers. I have read that good studio monitors are a must. What are studio monitors? If you don’t, your mix will sound amazing to you, but translate poorly on other electronic devices such as your car speakers.
The build quality on the NT1A is nothing short of amazing, and it goes really well with a Scarlett 2i2. What does an audio interface do? It may pick up things that you don’t want, so be aware of your studio setup. One thing that really stood out to me was the 10-year warranty that can be bought through Rode’s website. One final thing to note, a ton of people commented on its ability to record acoustic guitars with the greatest of ease. If you’re looking for a mic that can do just that, this may be for you!
Competes with mics that are way out of its price range
Versatile. Can handle anything from vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, drums, amps, etc.
An included pop filter is nice.
High SPL (sound pressure level). This basically means that it handles loud applications well. Stuff like drums and amps.
The included XLR cable is poor and may give you connection problems. It would be wise to invest in a separate one.
You may have to turn up the volume on your pre-amp to get optimal sound. Some say that the positive accolades for “quietest mic” are a bit of a misnomer. It actually means that the mic itself can be too quiet when recording, while at the same time being pleasantly quiet while idle.
Some reviewers claim the mic sounds cheap without a lot of EQ. It’s not the type of piece that you can just casually record with. Having some knowledge of EQ, compression, reverb, and the like greatly benefits the sound, especially with the NT1A.
High end. One of the biggest complaints about this mic is its harshness and sibilance in the treble range. Many folks claim it’s too bright and tinny. What does sibilant mean?
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Who this mic benefits?
All that said, I’ve seen it endorsed for:
Acoustic guitar. This is its biggest strength.
I’ve also seen it endorsed a lot for rap vocals as well.
If you have a Scarlett 2i2 or 2i4 or plan to get either, this will be a great choice.
People who are ready to invest in a good setup, i.e. Audio interface, Studio Monitors, XLR cable, etc.
Pop-filter. The pop filter that comes with it is pretty nice, but some say you may need a new one.
A durable mic with a rock-solid 10-year warranty (purchased through Rode’s website). It’s extremely sensitive and can pick up a fly farting in the next country. Lol, that was straight from an amazon review, can’t take credit although it made me laugh. It compares favorably with mics way out of its price range but may sound harsh and sibilant to many. The high end is a bit tinny and too bright for some people’s tastes.
If I had to choose one thing to say about this mic, it’s that it does really well for instruments, but not as good for vocals due to it being extremely bright.
Similarities & Differences
Both mics are XLR condenser mics and require 48v phantom power to operate.
Both do well with acoustic instruments.
Both benefit from some EQ and compression, and won’t sound amazing right away.
Sound. The NT1A is either praised mightily or criticized heavily. Its high-end sounds extremely harsh to a lot of people. So many have been disappointed recording vocals with it. The AT2020 by contrast gets pretty even reviews across the board, and dare I say is a more versatile mic. It’s cleaner in the high end and not harsh at all. I personally love it for Rap vocals and anything to do with Voice-over.
Versatility. It seems like the 2020 is a better all-purpose mic than the NT1A, which really only excels with acoustic instruments and a few other things as mentioned above.
If you’re a podcaster or need a mic strictly for voice-over type applications and you won’t really be using it from a musician’s standpoint, I would go with something else today.
What would I recommend?
The Blue Yeti. It’s the best USB microphone on the market, and you’ll instantly know why once you put it in your hands. The sound is articulate and detailed, and it comes packed with a ridiculous amount of features for its price. The value here is incredible. I’ve been using one for my YouTube videos since 2017 and love it.
In my mind, there is no reason to waste precious time and money on other similar options. The Yeti is the solution. Interested in learning more about everything it can do?
If you’re a musician and need a versatile mic for all of the things mentioned above, I would go with the AT2020 XLR version over the NT1A. Its reviews are less polarized across the board, and it’s delivered proven results time and again for aspiring musicians. Also, ignore the 1-star reviews. I’ve personally read every single one of the reviews. I’m pretty sure that this mic’s rating would be about a 4.75 without all of the misinformation from the guys and gals who didn’t do their research.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.